By Chad Corrie

Writers like to write. If you're really going to be a writer–if you feel pulled to such a profession–then you already know that you have this deep rooted desire to get something written; be it a story, an essay, comic script, or something else. You just have to write and don't feel like you've done anything of worth for the day unless you managed to get a few hundred to thousand words down on paper or saved in a Word file.

That's what I call "the love" part of the writer's life. Writers delight in writing and take great enjoyment out of what they create. It's what drives us to the next project and keeps us motivated to see the work through. Like the endorphin rush that calls the person to their next workout, writers wake up each day itching to write. This is the best part of the job. However, there's also a "hate" part of the job that many don't get to see until they start pursuing publication. If you plan to make writing your career choice then you'll have to come to understand that like many jobs there are good things and bad things about them. The good things are those I already stated. We writers can take great joy in what we create and write. The other side of the coin is that now we have to make sure our writing is viable for commercial use

What does that mean?


Many people think a writer just writes a manuscript, gets it to an editor who looks over it once, and then it goes to print. A one- two- simple process. If only it was so simple and easy. The truth is the writer will end up rereading his manuscript many more times before it goes to print. In fact, he will be looking over the manuscript so many times that he will often find himself beginning to loathe getting up and having to do more work (corrections, proofing, and the like) on the very story that once gave him so much joy to create. Looking to do anything but take another look at what he once enjoyed, he'll start to plan new works and ideas to take his mind off of the task...but the work at hand still has to be done.

Much like the average employee sometimes finds himself not wanting to get out of bed to go to work, so too the writer sometimes doesn't even want to come near the computer or sit down with pen and highlighter in hand to look over another galley of the same work he's already gone though more times than he cares to recall. But like the reluctant employee the writer has to solider through in order to get his desired end. For the employee it's a paycheck, for the writer it's publication and a paycheck of sorts too (if you count royalties and/or advances).

So just how "bad" is it for a writer in terms of edits and corrections? Having gone through three books now that went to press, with a few more in process, I can tell you a little bit of what the experience is like. I can't say for certain that other authors' experiences would be the same, but mine should be pretty close. It's not my intention to scare anyone looking to get published away, but to help them understand just what is involved in this wonderful world we call professional writing.

When the manuscript has been completed the writer sends it to the publisher who gets it to the editor. Now, before the manuscript has been made ready to send to the publisher the writer has gone through probably 3-4 drafts to get it good enough, in his eyes, for submission. I know that there are some writers who do more than four drafts and I have heard that some writers can get away with two, perhaps three at the most. I tend to have about four drafts for myself, but each writer and the work in question can play a factor in this. This is to say nothing of how many rounds it might go through with an agent if one is involved.

Once the editor has done their job then they send you the manuscript and it's up to you to look over the whole thing once again and make any needed corrections and approve of what has been suggested or done, etc. This is no simple process either as I know for me, at least, I can begin to second guess myself and even start to do more rewrites than what is needed (one can rewrite forever but at some point the work has to be "done" and the writer move on). This is the time when we look at every piece of punctuation, reread things over and over again to make sure it flows right, and a whole host of other things.

In short, we're not reading for pleasure but for mechanical and other craft-based matters of story. Even then we'll miss some things–we're only human and when you've been through a work a number of times you tend to start glancing over things more than read them as thoroughly as you might have given your closeness to the work. Then, of course, once we've looked it over and made the corrections we have to wait to get back some more manuscripts to read. Now here I'm not too sure how each publisher goes about the matter, (there can be a whole series of rounds of back and forth with additional edits before it clears this hurdle) but I shall be referring to my own experience with my current publisher at he time of this writing as to how I experienced the process.

Assuming there weren't any really big rewrites or too much work on the manuscript from the editor (and there just might be on some occasions) then the manuscript, after it has been corrected and sent back to the publisher, goes to layout. The layout then produces a copy for the writer to proof. Here now the writer is not only rereading the manuscript but also checking for any possible layout errors that might have happened. This is also the time, at least for my publisher, that they send out galleys to other readers who look over the book with fresh eyes, catching what they can as well as sharing their comments on the story.

Once you get your proof done and the readers get their proofs done the corrections are made and then the manuscript is put into its final form. Now the writer could very well have a chance to look it over once more either before the manuscript is sent to the printer or even the proof the printer makes before it goes to press or even both. So it is quite possible that a writer will end up rereading his work anywhere from 5-8 times or more from pre-submission to prepress. Now this doesn't count reprints wherein many publishers often go through and do another proof to clean up anything that might have been missed in the first printing, nor does it count all the proofers and readers who have read it before it sees press (including agents). Given that most commercial novels these days are written within a 6-9 month timeframe that means a writer can spend anywhere from a year to a year and half working on one book and rereading and tweaking and smoothing out that same novel. Needless to say the excitement of the story gets a bit diminished with each new proofreading so much so that I have heard it said, and have experienced it myself, that by the time it comes around to promote the book you'd rather be taking about something else–anything else–other than the book on the table before you.

This roller coaster ride from excitement and enjoyment of your work to a slow decline into trying to distance yourself form it for a while is a fleeting thing. Once the book has had time to get out of your system, things do get better. Knowing that it's now done and printed typically goes a long way to this end. You even come to enjoy it again in the time that follows as you start to get busy with the next book and the process with it as your fondness for your current work starts to fade and your eye and mind begins to rove about for "your old flame.

So that, in a nutshell, is what most published authors go through with their work. Sometimes this process is longer and more drawn out, sometimes a bit shorter, but this is the basic format that one can expect when they enter into the world of publication. So don't be dismayed when you start to find the passion for of your work fading a bit into minor loathing of it... the spark will come back, rest assured, just keep focused on the work at hand. And don't use the constant rewrites, drafts, and proofs as an excuse for not seeking to get your work published. Just like if you want to earn money from a job but don't want to take the bad with the good, then you can't expect a paycheck either. So don't stop writing or working toward seeing your work in print. There is nothing like seeing your name on a book for the first time (and third time for that matter) and you'll get to experience that for yourself if you're pressing hard toward that goal. And it's made all the more rewarding when you realize the trek it took to get there.


© 2007 Chad Corrie. All rights reserved.

No part of this essay may be used in any form without written permission by the author.


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